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EU says equivalence for financial services not part of trade talks with UK

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 19, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Granting British financial firms access to the EU market is not part of the talks starting next week, the bloc’s executive European Commission said.

Britain said on Thursday it wanted “legally binding” obligations on access to the European Union financial market coupled with arrangements for maintaining trust as rules evolve.

London, Europe’s biggest financial center, faces being locked out of its biggest export market for services like banking, insurance and asset management if there is no access to the EU from next January.

“From the beginning the equivalence regime is not part of the negotiations with the UK because the decision is something for the EU to assess and decide upon,” a Commission spokeswoman told a regular news briefing.

“In the Withdrawal Agreement there is a commitment to complete that assessment by June,” she said.

She added talks on the future relationship, that is to include trade, security, citizens’ mobility, fisheries and a level playing field for companies would start next week, but the exact agenda for the talks has not been decided yet.

The spokeswoman would not comment on remarks by senior British minister Michael Gove that there would be no border checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, even tough the bloc says London committed itself to them in its divorce treaty from the bloc.

“In relation to controls in the Irish Sea, we do not comment... our only compass as regards the Irish Sea is the protocol on Northern Ireland in the Withdrawal Agreement,” the spokeswoman said.

Reporting by Jan Strupczewski, Editing by Gabriela Baczynska